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Ohio House passes concealed-carry measure

COLUMBUS — The Ohio House on Tuesday voted across party lines to ease penalties for drivers with concealed-carry licenses who fail to promptly tell a police officer of the presence of a gun in the vehicle when pulled over.

“Ohio’s current concealed-carry notification law is ambiguous, arbitrarily enforced, and carries the most draconian penalties in the nation, which harms otherwise law-abiding citizens,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Wiggam (R., Wooster).

House Bill 142 now goes to the Senate. It is opposed by the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Chiefs of Police Association. The Buckeye Sheriffs Association has taken a neutral stance.

BLADE BRIEFING: Ohio House passes concealed-carry measure

Gun rights advocates, however, are divided with some angry that lawmakers backed away from the original intent of the bill to do away altogether with a driver’s duty to inform the officer that he has a gun.

Rep. Nino Vitale (R., Urbana) planned to offer an amendment on the floor to revert back to the original bill’s language, but House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R., Clarksville) called for a vote before he could.

“There is no other law in the state of Ohio that requires us to notify if we’re giving a speech, if we’re going to church,” Mr. Vitale said after session. “It’s a burden on the best citizens of Ohio. Concealed-carry holders are the absolute most law abiding.”

He still voted for the final watered-down bill, which passed 69-25.

Law enforcement had insisted on the notification language when lawmakers first legalized concealed carry more than a decade ago. But the bill’s supporters argue that the language that a driver “promptly” tell a police officer that there’s a gun in the car is arbitrarily interpreted and enforced.

The bill drops the word “promptly” and specifies that a driver can verbally tell the officer of the presence of a gun or simply hand the officer his concealed-carry permit when asked for his driver’s license or state identification.

The bill would reduce the penalty for failing to inform an officer from a first-degree misdemeanor — carrying up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and potentially the driver’s concealed-carry license — to a minor misdemeanor, simply carrying a maximum $25 fine.

Supporters of the bill have argued that officers, after running a car’s license through the state database, are likely to know whether the driver is a concealed-carry license holder without having to be told.

The measure passed with a single Republican, Rep. Anthony DeVitis (R., Green), joining 24 Democrats in opposition. The negative votes from northwest Ohio came from Reps. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) and Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon).

Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) was one of a handful of other Democrats to join Republicans in passing the measure.

No one spoke against the bill on the House floor. Even those who support getting away with the duty to inform altogether generally see this as a step in that direction.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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